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How To Control Feelings Of Anxiety And Perfectionism
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How to Control Feelings Of Anxiety And Perfectionism

If you’re one of those people who show traits of perfectionism or experience a combination of anxiety and perfectionism, you are not alone. We all know people who are perfectionists, constantly striving to do their best, rarely satisfied with their achievements, however great they are. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having a degree of perfectionism as it can act as a motivating factor and help you to persevere in the face of obstacles, objections and discouragement. However, if you take it to extremes and you’re constantly putting yourself under stress to perform perfectly you’re guaranteed to fail and if unchecked can lead to bouts of anxiety and in more severe cases depression.

Symptoms of anxiety and perfectionism, vary with each person but can include: fear or losing control or being rejected, difficulty in concentrating, controlling anxious thoughts or relaxing, trouble sleeping, muscle tension, feeling edginess or restlessness, being judgmental, feeling very negative, being chronically dissatisfied, trying to control everything and feeling permanently stressed. It doesn’t sound much fun does it?

I have to admit that I frequently show traits of perfectionism and have to fight feeling anxious about it. I’m currently working with a personal trainer and last week was venting my frustration that my body wouldn’t keep up with my mind. I mean why couldn’t I do aerobic exercise for 7 days a week? I used to be able to. My trainer looked at me rather witheringly and asked me if I’d always had the urge to “run before I could walk?”.

If I hadn’t been so out of breath I probably would have snapped his head off, but I had to stop for a moment. Was there any merit in what he was saying? Of course there was. That has always been my problem. I like to be excellent at everything I do, but what’s worse is that I also want it immediately. That doesn’t mean I give up, far from it. There are probably times when I should, but no I keep pushing and yet I find myself putting myself under unnecessary stress which is not healthy. Striving for instant perfectionism makes things difficult.

Fortunately, I am aware of the signs and symptoms so I’ve worked hard to overcome them, and as a coach I often work with people who are in a similar position. Here are my tips for controlling feelings of anxiety and perfectionism.

Stop in the moment: Instead of focussing on what you have yet to achieve, stay in the moment and acknowledge what you have already done (and enjoy it!)

Don’t strive for perfection: It cannot be obtained and therefore you are setting yourself up for failure and a range of feelings which could include anxiety, anger, frustration, guilt, helplessness, and sadness. Sometimes you have to be satisfied with doing a job that is "good enough"

Don’t worry about mistakes: Mistakes happen. Learn from them and move on and give yourself credit for your successes.

Accept you can’t control everything: There’s no point in putting yourself under greater stress because you find it difficult when circumstances change or situations are outside of your control. It’s what happens.

Don’t live in the past: Living in the past regretting things that haven’t turned out as you hoped only piles on unnecessary stress. It's important that you learn to control the amount of stress that you put yourself under.

Set realistic and flexible time frames for goals: There’s nothing wrong in being highly motivated, but don’t put excess stress on yourself by setting unrealistic goals

Practice relaxation techniques: Practice breathing exercises and relaxation techniques to help you control any feelings of anxiety.

Any changes that you try to make to control feelings of anxiety and perfectionism need to be practised. The saying ‘old habits die hard’ is a truism for many people. If you’re used to putting excess pressure on yourself, you won’t just stop doing it. However, making small changes can make all the difference and ensure the things that you strive for are fun rather than stressful.

If you try making small changes but find that you continually find it difficult to control your feelings of anxiety and perfectionism then it’s wise to seek professional help, rather than let your feelings get out of control. Coaching can be effective for people with mild symptoms, but therapies such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) are more appropriate for anyone who suffers from severe symptoms.

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